My initial reaction to the Safe trailer was something along the lines of *groan*, “Yet another Statham movie where he saves a girl with his driving and broods a lot.” And it IS that kind of movie, but it was surprisingly not the stale Statham vehicle I had expected it to be. Somehow writer/director Boaz Yakin (who also wrote another little guilty pleasure of mine, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time) was able to take the elements of this film, which have all been done many times before, add a little style to it and keep it interesting. If you’ve somehow missed the trailer, check it out:
Jason Statham plays Luke Wright, a cage fighter who has just gotten into some hot water with the Russians for not throwing a fight and now has to leave his life lest everyone he knows and loves gets murdered. At the same time we are introduced to Mei, a twelve-year-old mathematical genius who is wise beyond her years (and well cast for it I might add). Mei gets kidnapped by Han Jiao (played by the always excellent James Hong), head of a Chinese organized crime cell. Jiao loathes using computers to do his books primarily because that information can be traced. So when his daughter, who goes to school with Mei, mentions her uncanny ability with numbers, he gets a clever idea to use her as his “human computer.” This also gives the film an excuse to go old-school low-tech, which I really appreciate in this day and age of over-the-top wanna-be Mission Impossible shite. Safe has no ridiculous gadgets or devices. Except for one gratuitous use of an iPad, this movie could have been made in the ’80s and given Die Hard a run for its money (calm down, it’s not as good as Die Hard).
The introduction to our primary characters is set at a breakneck pace right at the beginning of the movie. Yakin seems to have wanted to hit the audience across the side of the head imbuing us with the knowledge of who these people are and how their paths cross as quickly as possible so he can get to the reason we all came to see this movie…the action. And I’d like to thank him for that, because the action is where it is at. Do we really care why Statham left the police force to become a cage fighter? Do we really care that the NYC police force is possibly the most corrupt police force in the universe (seriously, it’s beyond comprehension how corrupt these guys are)? Do we really care how the mayor and his people are culpable in said corruption? Do we really care that in reality a gang of Chinese dudes shooting up a five-star hotel in the middle of downtown New York would have Homeland Security crawling all over that place in no less than two minutes, arresting EVERYONE and rendering said police corruption pointless because they so don’t give a shit about any of that? No, not really. Some of the things in this movie simply defy all sense of reality, even within the confines of this fictional world, but without all those things none of this other stuff would matter. So it has to be there, contrived as it might be. And speaking of contrived I do have to admit that the villains, this includes the Russians, the Chinese AND the police, were all very stereotypical, which would have been annoying save for the performances of Reggie Lee and James Hong. They were able to bring a bit of humanity to their otherwise cold-blooded characters, and for me that kind of saved it.
Another thing I appreciate is the relationship between Luke and Mei. It gets a little sentimental towards the end but other than that I never felt that either of them were defying their characters. She stays sharp-witted and a little distant and he stays focused on his task without the predictable end of trying to be a father figure to her. It’s no Hard Boiled, mind you (what is though, really) but as far as their characters are concerned I dare say there is a little John Woo in this flick.
So despite a couple of groan-worthy one liners, a little bit of over-sentimentality at the end, and the stereotypical cops and Russians, I am going to give this movie 3.5 Nerdskulls. The movie never slows down enough to get boring and no matter how many times I see Statham kicking someone’s ass, I still want to see more, because he is that good at it.